Faster Than Sound: City Council Backs Music-Focused Art Center on East 11th Street: Harold McMillan Breaks Down Civic Steps Leading Up To Kenny Dorham Center Considered – Music
Artists paint murals at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard in June 2020. (Photo by John Anderson)
In 2007, Austin City Council created a African American Cultural Heritage District in East Austin, recognizing the home of historic institutions like Huston-Tillotson University, Victory Grill, and the George Washington Carver Museum.
A stop along the national Chitlin Circuit – a collection of venues that played host to black musicians throughout the 1960s – the area was previously home to a thriving community of black-owned businesses and residents, now almost entirely displaced. Community leader Harold McMillan, who runs the place of the district Kenny Dorham’s Garden and conceived the concept of a cultural district, argues that the Council resolution 14 years ago ultimately had no teeth. A resolution unanimously passed by city council last week “reaffirms” the importance of the neighborhood with plans for increased city funding and the development of a music-focused arts center in the 1100 block of East 11th Street.
“This neighborhood is rich in the legacy of African-American history, culture, heritage, entertainment, music,” McMillan told the the Chronicle. “The city is not taking advantage of it in a way that could [Austin] as a whole, and certainly not in a way that would show black people in east central Austin that they are ready to make amends for broken promises made years and years ago. “
The East Austin Creative Coalition, which McMillan formed in 2018, created plans for an arts complex that included an amphitheater, recording studio, rehearsal space, art gallery, indoor venue / café and museum, as well as housing affordable partially reserved for artist residencies up to three years. The new resolution calls on city staff to solicit plans and cost estimates for the development of the “multi-story mixed-use development,” which integrates street-level retail. The establishment would be called the Kenny Dorham Center, according to the legendary jazz trumpeter who grew up nearby on East 12th Street (review “Trumpet Colossus Kenny Dorham Towers”, September 2018).
“You talk about more than a decade to get to this place where saying we have an African American cultural heritage district actually means something,” said Mayor Pro. Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who sponsored the resolution.
Kenny Dorham’s Backyard currently operates in the 1100 block of East 11th Street, hosting weekly programming, food trucks and festivals. As a city-owned property, McMillan has operated it for the past 14 years under annual leases as the land awaits potential development. In coming up with its own proposal for the said overhaul, the East Austin Creative Coalition smartly aligned its long-term goals with two promising and award-winning urban funding programs.
The first is the $ 12 million Creative space link, approved by voters in 2018 for the acquisition and improvement of artistic hubs. The new resolution calls on city staff to review the recommendations on obligations made by the arts and music commissions in January 2020, which focused on a multi-purpose facility that “should specifically address historical inequalities” as a target of support, also identifying East Austin as one of them. multiple areas suggested by public comments. While last week’s efforts do not guarantee the Kenny Dorham Center will receive bond money, McMillan says the city’s guidelines align with the vision of the East Austin Creative Coalition.
“[The Kenny Dorham Center] It is above all about producing art, serving culture, preserving tradition and welcoming professionals who work in the creative industries in a single block where there is a magical and synergistic energy at play ” adds McMillan. “We are talking about a generational investment here.”
Schedule of bond proposals unknown, McMillan submitted plans to the program’s preliminary request for information last fall. Other properties mentioned in public discussions include the Doris Miller Auditorium and Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center.
Next on the coalition’s radar is the Live Music Fund (LMF), created to support the local music economy in 2019 on the basis of a 2% tax increase for hotel customers. The last plan of the musical commission of July proposed a LMF Program of the event, prioritizing grants between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 for historically underserved artists and event promoters with applications to be confirmed. Backed by hotel occupancy taxes, LMF dollars are to be used to promote tourism – which McMillan says is consistent with plans for the arts center, including a destination Austin Black Music Archives and Kenny Dorham Museum.
At the very least, McMillan wants the neighborhood to appear on official city maps. Last week’s resolution also calls for improvements to the area’s landscape with signage, public art, and pedestrian safety improvements. In collaboration with other district organizations such as the Afro-American Resource Advisory Board and Six squares, the city will encourage “businesses in the entertainment and creative industry” to relocate and stay in the neighborhood.
“For the band I work with, this neighborhood – which was once the hub of live music on East 11th Street – is our last stand,” adds McMillan. “If we don’t really make this work, I won’t continue to have these arguments that I have had for 25 years with city officials. If not now, when ?
HAAM Day Telethon Aims To Surpass $ 1 Million
With the lessons of a year of live broadcasting under their belt, the second remote edition of HAAM day offers an assortment of viewing options. To help reach an ambitious goal of $ 1.2 million in donations, log on this Tuesday, September 14 through the Health Alliance for Austin MusicianFacebook page and local TV channels CBS Austin, KVUE, The CW Austin and KVBO. Essential nonprofit organization’s largest annual fundraiser funds free or low-cost health care for Austin artists – open to any musician, music teacher, or DJ working within a 50-mile radius from the city.
With a few sets broadcast live from Waterloo Parkis new Moody Amphitheater, the range of over 100 includes Spoon‘s Britt daniel with Gentle spirit‘s Sabrina ellis, Jimmie vaughan, Black puma, Asleep at the wheel, Charley crockett, Bob schneider, THE BLACK ODYSSE, as well as a collaborative trio Marcia Ball, Carolyn in Wonderland, and Shelley king.
The nonprofit organization’s unique ability to stretch every dollar donated to $ 7 in direct health care services for musicians makes it an excellent candidate for myhaam.org support. You will also find participating companies and an online auction. Along with the increase in demand during the pandemic, the organization is also facing the recent retirement of the CEO. Reenie collins after eight years, replacement in progress.
“Musicians need our help more than ever,” said the chairman of the HAAM board. Heather Ladage in a press release. “We are doing everything we can to help our musicians in these uncertain times. With money limited, the last thing we want is for our members to have to choose between eating and accessing health care.”